The Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility was completely gutted on Saturday as a fire of unknown origin swept through the old wooden building where the office is located in Eve Leary.
Quick action by the Guyana Fire Service prevented the fire from reaching the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions which is located in the same building.
The Fire Service was summoned to the blaze just after lunch on Saturday. When the firemen arrived, the top floor of the building was completely engulfed. The building faces the seawall, so the midafternoon breeze aided the fire.
The building closeby to the Police headquarters. Police Officers and members of the GDF also responded to the fire emergency and assisted in getting important documents out of the DPP’s Office.
They could be seen loading various case jackets onto a waiting bus to be transported to another area.
With the fire investigation not even properly started, Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn sought to lay blame for the blaze at the feet of persons in the United States, who he claimed have been calling on others in Guyana to make the PPP government uncomfortable.
The last time the Minister made similar claims was at the scene of the Brickdam Police station fire. A disgruntled prisoner who was locked up at the station has since been charged and remanded for that fire. The man has claimed innocence and has told his Attorneys that he was forced to confess to the crime.
At yesterday’s fire, government officials once again expressed disappointment in the performance of the Guyana Fire Service, although the firemen were able to contain the blaze to one section of the wooden building.
Several government ministers were at the scene. While some observed the firefighting operations, others became involved in giving directions to the firemen.
Prime Minister Mark Phillips said he believes the Fire Service did its job. He said attention will now focus on the investigations.
“The investigation will help us to determine whether it is coincidental or if there is some other motive or reason behind this fire. So, we need to allow the fire service and the police and law enforcement agencies to do their work… the important thing right now is that we have the fire under control, not likely to spread beyond this point and the investigation into what may be the cause of the fire has started”, The Prime Minister said.
Police Commissioner (ag) Nigel Hoppie said while many of the documents in the Office of Professional Responsibility were lost, the Force has a back-up system in place.
“We always have contingency systems in place but of course, any fire initially would affect us going forward but together as a team, we will put systems in place to ensure that it does not hamper our progress in addressing the issues at hand… most, if not all the cases have connections to several divisions also because as you are aware, we have decentralised Office of Professional Responsibility, that is in every region throughout our country”, Hoppie said.
In a statement this morning, Opposition Leader Joe Harmon expressed concern about the latest fire at a government property and reignited his calls for there to be safeguards put in place to protect government buildings. He said the government has refused to pay attention to his calls.
“The latest bonfire creates the conditions for the destruction of vital
information contained in the files at the DPP’s Chambers, including the
files related to current high-ranking government officials accused of
involvement in corrupt practices related to the award of contracts”, Harmon said.
The Guyana Fire Service has indicated that its probe is ongoing. The scene of the fire is to be visited again today by Fire and Police investigators.